Shakespeare at War

2016 is being celebrated as #Shakespeare400 around the world as this year marks the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.  On first glance it didn’t seem like there would be many links between this anniversary and the First World War but we were quickly surprised…

Hiding in our reserve collections was this gem of a book:

Shakespearean War Calendar by Rev. Fredk. Askew

Shakespearean War Calendar by Rev. Fredk. Askew


Compiled by the Rev. Frederick Askew the foreword is incredibly jingoistic:


foreword Sh ww1 2


The contents are equally fascinating, as each day lists which Saint is celebrated on the day, what happened in the war during 1916 and then has the quote. They months have also been split into topics, for example the beginning of April takes Peace Mongers as a theme:april theme

The exact entry for April 4th (1917) reads:

april 4

I’m not 100% certain that this quote (or indeed many that the Rev. Askew uses) fill me with patriotic fervour but this book must have found an audience for at the back a second publication called Two Years of War: A Nation’s Psychology in Shakespeare’s Words is listed as being available to order.

Sadly we don’t have a copy of this in our collection (in fact if any one does have a copy then please do contact us as we would love to see it!) but this second publication has been quoted in books looking at the role Shakespeare has played in shaping Britain’s culture and national identity.

More research into these publications, and Shakespeare in general, during the First World War has also lead to the discovery that copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare were presented to soldier’s disabled in the war “as a token of gratitude for their service and in the hope of providing comfort.”  These were financed by donations to the Kitchener Souvenir Committee which had been set up after Lord Kitchener’s death in 1916.

Again if anyone has a copy of this book in their family collection we would love to see a physical copy.


Throughout April all of Norfolk’s Libraries are promoting the Shakespeare to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of his death – pop in and find books about the Bard, his plays and more modern novels based which are based on the play as well as Shakespeare themed activities.


2 thoughts on “Shakespeare at War

  1. This fascinating. There was also an official commemoration and publication from Drury Lane Theatre London in 1916 to celebrate the Bard’s tercentenary. We have a copy on display in Newcastle City Library.

    • Wow – that is beautiful, I think I need to spend some more time looking through our collections to see if we have any other items in our ephemera boxes!

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